On Valentine’s Day

romantic couple in front of santa monica amusement park at sunset.

By Sara Paciaroni

The Christmas lights in Buchanan Street are not even down and shops are already stocked with the schmalziest water bottles decorated with heart-shaped glitters and scented bath bombs with punny names, and I don’t know about you, but all this haste to celebrate makes me anxious.

I mean, you’re still looking for a belated Christmas present for the work colleague you weren’t expecting to receive a gift from, and gather some cards from the January sale for the neighbours you forgot to wish a “Merry Christmas” before going on holiday, and then you find yourself having to worry about a whole set of things like what restaurant won’t rip you off for a dinner for two or “is this card too cheesy?” – only to realise you’re single.

I like to divide others into groups – most of the times hypocritically, not knowing myself in which one I fall. To the purpose of this “study”, I would say people have three different perspectives towards Valentine’s Day: some really take it to heart, others essentially despise it, and the rest couldn’t care less. The first group is mainly made up of people who obviously are in a relationship – a basic requirement to celebrate a day dedicated to lovers – the second ones are either single or had a disastrous Valentine experience, and the last ones, as I said, couldn’t care less – or at least that’s what they think.

Over the centuries, a series of notable figures have mentioned the festivity, such as Geoffrey Chaucer in his Parliament of Foules; Charles, Duke of Orleans, wrote the first ever recorded Valentine’s card; and Shakespeare in Hamlet, contributing to the creation of the romantic tradition. Ironically, Valentine’s Day was officially established in 1913 with Hallmark Cards producing their first card for the occasion.

But who wouldn’t want to be surprised with a bunch of roses, a box of chocolates and a romantic dinner? What do these people do when they are presented with the cliché of a romantic night out? Dump the flowers, bin the chocolates and go back home to a microwaved soup? I don’t think so. We are all romantic in a way or another.

Sure, romantic comedies and romance novels might have distorted our perception of love and romanticism as sentimentalism. We might have expectations a tiny bit too high when it comes to our partners. It is also clear there is a great economic interest behind holidays like this. But do you refuse your Christmas present in the name of your ideology? I assume no one does.

So why such cynicism towards Valentine’s Day? As it is with human beings, we want to protect ourselves. We don’t want to disappoint our expectations by hoping we will not be single by the D-day this year, or that our partner will show up with a pair of diamond earrings or a new car. We’d rather pretend we don’t want to celebrate it or we don’t care about it.

I think I need a fourth group; I love Valentine’s Day because I don’t expect anything from it. No one forces us to celebrate it if we are in a relationship, no one forces us not to, if we’re not. There is nothing wrong with taking the opportunity of having a day for you and your significant other or with spending it on your own, with friends or family. There is nothing wrong with buying expensive gifts and fancy cards, and there is nothing wrong in spending no money at all. We shouldn’t make Valentine’s Day like any other day, we should start from here and make every day like Valentine’s Day, dropping the pressure our society puts on us to get the perfect Valentine’s and focusing in making each other feel loved.

So, if I’m lucky, this year I am going to split a pint, get some stolen flowers and somehow get drunk despite being skint and I am going to love it because it is going to be with the person I love, so go and get your bath bombs and your cups reading “I love you a latte”.